If the king of herbs is basil, then I would like to nominate tarragon as the queen.

It's a sophisticated herb, highly prized in French cooking and an essential ingredient in their famous Béarnaise sauce. It goes well in veal and poultry dishes and is often included in mixed herb dishes. It is, however, a strongly flavoured herb, so always be sparing with it. A sprig or two preserved in some white wine vinegar will help to give a subtle flavour of tarragon to salad dressings all through the winter.

You can only grow it from cuttings, and if you buy a plant (one will be enough) do make sure the label says it's French tarragon. There is a Russian variety which grows up to 5 feet (1.5 m) high, but has nowhere near the flavour of the French. Dried tarragon is useful – if you steep it in warm water for a minute or two before using.

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